Please choose Language or Country
or

Conquering mountains ... and yourself

Reaching the top of a summit is more than just an athletic challenge and a fantastic experience in nature. Mountain hiking helps you connect with your inner self, with every single step through alpine terrain that you take bringing you closer to peace and tranquility.

A story about a voyage of self-discovery

The car struggles up the narrow mountain road, passing extensive alpine pastures and seductively gurgling mountain brooks on its way to Innere Kelchsau, which stands at an altitude of 1,240 metres and forms the starting point of my summit tour. Ahead lies a four-hour climb, taking me past three mountain lakes up to Schafsiedel peak in the Kitzbühel Alps, standing at an impressive 2,447 metres. As I make a right turn I get a call from the office. Could I please review this and take a look at that Excel sheet? They choose to ignore the fact that I am on holiday in the Tirol right now. Then the phone is silent. I reach the last parking area, take a look at my mobile to see that there is no reception. Thank heavens for that - I can get going!

Taking a fern-lined path, I walk through a thick forest of rich green spruce trees. The air rising from the babbling brook is refreshingly cool. At last I can breathe freely again! All of a sudden I feel all my worries drift away along with the dictates of time and the compulsive need to be reached anywhere and everywhere. I am alone on this mountain trail and all by myself. I enjoy the tranquillity, watch a butterfly with a gorgeous orange pattern fluttering by, drink water from a spring and pick bilberries from the bulging bushes. All these experiences enable me to connect with my inner self again and I feel an overriding sense of harmony with nature.

Summit tour with sweeping views

  • Kitzbühler Alpen - Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz Kitzbühler Alpen - Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz
  • Natur am Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz Natur am Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz
  • Blumen am Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz Blumen am Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz
  • Schafherde - Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz Schafherde - Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz
  • Mitten in der Natur © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz Mitten in der Natur © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz

All the mountain streams merge together by the New Bamberger Hut and gush down in torrents to the valley. I stop for a rest and take in the views of the craggy mountain peaks. I am somewhat over-equipped for my summit hike: gloves, a hood, a headlamp – but at least I am prepared for all the vagaries of mountain weather. I try to reduce the weight I am carrying in my rucksack by eating a sandwich.

On the increasingly steep trail above the treeline of the Kitzbühel Alps, I come across a yellow and pale-purple sea of alpine flowers. I can literally feel their colours exploding now at the height of the summer.

With every metre I go, more views unfold. To my left I can pick out the alpine glaciers of the Hohe Tauern range, and to my right I notice a lizard darting by. I catch a glimpse of its brown-and-black pattern out of the corner of my eye. The sweeping views and the endless detail allure me into climbing ever higher. But hiking in the mountains also induces you to gaze inside yourself as if looking through a magnifying glass – taking you on a journey to your inner self. This introspection and repose could become my new credo in future.

Pleasant mountain hike

I reach Unterer Wildalmsee which is set like a sparkling blue eye in the alpine landscape. At its edge cows are basking in the sunshine as if in the Caribbean. Climbing on up I reach the second lake where I dip my feet into the cool water. They feel like new afterwards.

Then, at the third lake, I finally encounter the sheep which are grazing on the luscious mountain pastures. I had really been looking forward to seeing them – after all the Schafsiedel (“sheep’s”) peak wasn’t called that for nothing! A trail leads up to the summit – not that it is overly demanding, but still I have to muster up all my strength. I am more worried about the dark clouds overhead. Did I feel a drop of rain just now? Do I really have to turn back just as I’m a stone’s throw from the summit? I fish out my phone, somewhat surprisingly find there is reception and consult my rain app: the front will pass. That’s good news - I ignore the 17 other messages from the office and quickly put my mobile back where it came from!

Immersion into tranquillity

  • Kitzbühler Alpen - Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz Kitzbühler Alpen - Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz
  • Schafsiedel - See © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz Schafsiedel - See © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz
  • Kitzbühler Alpen - Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz Kitzbühler Alpen - Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz
  • Kitzbühler Alpen - Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz Kitzbühler Alpen - Schafsiedel © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz
  • Eintauchen in die Stille © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz Eintauchen in die Stille © Österreich Werbung / Martin Betz

The higher I climb on my hike the more I’m aware of the peace and quiet. The only thing I can hear up here is the bleating of sheep. All that silence and solitude have a purifying effect. You feel as though being on your own takes you further forward. And every step on this summit hike reflects my new-found resolution: to go through life in a more relaxed and self-determining way. The summit cross at the top is within reach. I take a deep breath, gather my strength for the last stretch – then suddenly I am at the summit. As I stand there, a feeling of freedom and inner peace takes hold of me. I look across to the peaks of the Hohe Tauern range, which reveal their majestic faces. How small, almost insignificant, the world beneath seems to be.

Having written my name in the summit register, I stop beneath the cross and think of my colleagues at work. They should come up here one of these days. Here you can take yourself in hand, draw new strength, and make plans far beyond the next working week. In moments like these, you can decide how to face your life in this world. Something you only realise once you have been right to the top...


Author: Martin Betz

“Wherever there are mountains, I know I can go up and get a new perspective on life from above.”

Hubert von Goisern © Konrad Fersterer Hubert von Goisern © Konrad Fersterer Hubert von Goisern, Austrian singer-songwriter

What makes a mountain?

Austria boasts countless mountains, but when can an elevation officially be called a mountain? The relevant criteria are: dominance and prominence.

Topographic dominance – sometimes referred to as topographic isolation - indicates a peak which stands out as a unique feature and is separated from the nearby peak or peaks. Mount Grimming is relatively isolated between the Ennstal valley and the Salzkammergut, and at 2,351m is considered Europe’s highest freestanding mountain.

Also of importance in achieving mountain status is its prominence. Topographic prominence indicates how much higher one peak is compared to others nearby. In the Alps, a peak must be 110m to 300m higher than a neighbouring one to be considered a mountain in its own right.

Where do mountains get their names from?

Kahlenberg, Mittagskogel or Gjaid Alm – mountains seem to be named arbitrarily – but of course, it’s not just casual chance. Firstly, the shape has relevance to their name: is it round or pointed, does it resemble a ‘head’ or a ‘ridge’? The flora growing on the mountain is also a defining criterion – for example: 'Grasberg' (grassy mountain) or 'Zirbenkogel' (pine peak). Some mountains, such as 'Nebelstein' (foggy peak) or 'Wetterkreuz' (weather peak) are named after the weather. Others derive their names from the position of the sun, such as 'Mittagskogel' (noon peak) or 'Zwölferspitz' (twelve o’clock peak).

When I grow up, I want to be a mountain

Even though, at times, mountains seem to grow endlessly up into the sky, they reach their natural limit at around 9,000m. Why is this? The collision of the continental plates causes mountains to form and gives them their shape; subsequently eroding, developing cracks, or beginning to crumble away. Atmospheric conditions, too, play a role in disintegration as rain, wind, and weather erode the rock. Furthermore, if mountains were higher, they would also be heavier and break through the crust of the earth.

How do glaciers form?

The formation of glaciers depends on two criteria, precipitation and temperature. Glaciers can only form where there is an abundance of snow and where most of the precipitation falls as snow. Therefore, the temperature needs to be low to prevent the fallen snow from melting, thus providing a foundation for the fresh snow. In this way, the under layer of snow grows and becomes compacted by the weight of the fresh snow above it. The pressure changes the structure of the crystals, and the distinctive fluffy snowflakes are transformed into smooth ice crystals which bind together into hard pack. The volume of the snow shrinks, and over time the old snow becomes glaciated. Austria’s largest glacier is 'Pasterze' at the foot of mount Grossglockner, with a surface area of 17.3km².
  • Bergfex-Wetter © Bergfex Bergfex-Wetter © Bergfex

    Bergfex Weather

    Keep an eye on the weather at all times during your holiday. This app helps you to do so, delivering detailed weather forecasts for the Alpine arena, giving details of minimum and maximum temperatures, wind, precipitation, hours of sunlight, webcams, new and local snow fall and much more.

    tablet / mobile
  • PeakFinder Earth © PeakFinder Earth PeakFinder Earth © PeakFinder Earth

    PeakFinder Earth

    The mountains are calling! PeakFinder Earth features more than 300,000 peaks and shows the names of all mountains and peaks with a 360° panorama display, functioning completely offline and worldwide.

    tablet / mobile
  • Essbare Pflanzen PRO © Essbare Pflanzen PRO Essbare Pflanzen PRO © Essbare Pflanzen PRO

    'Edible Plants' PRO (German only)

    Herbs can be found everywhere. In order to help you recognise them on the side of the path, this app has helpful tips on how to collect, presere and prepare edible herbs and wild plants. 

    tablet / mobile

Plan your trip with us...

Give us a call or chat with us here Monday to Friday from 8am to noon. Outside of our office hours please drop us an email and we'll be happy to answer your questions.

Holiday information

Our holiday experts are here to assist you with your holiday planning. Give us a call from 8am to noon or drop us an email and we'll be happy to answer your questions.

Telephone: 00800 400 200 00*

*toll-free; calls from mobile networks may incur charges

Brochures

Download and order free brochures for your holidays in Austria.

Brochures & Catalogues

Newsletter

Subscribe to our free monthly e-newsletter and receive great information about Austria.

Newsletter

Image copyrights

The main purpose of the two main domains www.austria.info and www.austriatourism.com is the promotion of Austria as a holiday destination.